August 12, 2020

Being sick used to mean something. If you were under the weather people worried about you. Employers would either recommend going home for the day, or not even coming into work. When you’d call in sick, you’d be met with genuine concern and empathy towards your situation.

What happened?

Over the years an “endure” mentality has developed. Where businesses and society as a whole expect one to work through being ill. The act of taking a day for yourself not only births suspicion and frustration from your boss, but fellow employees will adapt a sense of hostility towards you.

People have also started taking pride in not calling in sick for long periods, wearing it like a badge of “honour”. It’s this weird dehumanization trend, where people are supposed to be money making machines, as opposed to living creatures with fluctuating health.

What’s worse, is how businesses encourage this mentality by often hiring the least amount of employees possible, making it unlikely you could even call in sick if you had to. This lack of foresight and empathy creates a level of frustration among employees, turning them both against one another and the company they work for.

There’s a particular Tylenol commercial, at least I think it’s Tylenol (could be Advil -shrugs-), where this woman switches between cycling long distances and working a physically taxing job. During the commercial she speaks about muscle pain, and how it can impact her daily performance. However, instead of resting, taking in enough sleep / calories, or reducing the amount of work for a short period, she “pops a couple pills” and fights through it.

Our body hurting is a natural response to being sick or strained. It’s our bodies telling us to take better care of ourselves. In what reality does that mean take a bunch of government approved drugs and keep pushing yourself? Why can’t we take time needed to recover mentally or physically, without feeling like we’ve done something wrong?

People are not machines, they have needs. Sometimes they call in sick because of a physical illness like the flu, other times it’s for mental health. Needing to explain why you took a day for yourself, or worse, obtaining a doctors note like we’re children in public school, isn’t right. Same goes for prosecuting your friend, co-worker, or employee for becoming ill, when they’re already dealing with enough.

This part, designed more for the analytical business person who cares little for emotional turmoils of the sick. I offer you logical reasons why someone calling in sick is better for your company.

When an employee isn’t given the time needed to recover it wears on them, both physically and mentally. It results in them feeling exhausted or ill more frequently, and impacts both their overall performance, as well as their views towards the jobs longevity.

When they come to working sick you are not getting optimum performance. The employee is slow, confused, often making multiple mistakes they would otherwise avoid. They’re also infecting the rest of your staff. Soon a larger chunk is either taking time off, or working at poor performance rates.

Additionally, when you’re unable to call in sick due to fear of ridicule / prosecution, employees start to feel imprisoned. Suddenly, when illness takes them, they are overwhelmed with the idea of quitting, if only to avoid the stresses of calling in sick.

End Result?

Instead of loosing a single employee for a day or two (only to have them return refreshed and prepared to work), you’re left with multiple employees working at poor efficiency, some still calling in sick, and others quitting because they aren’t given the time needed to recover.

What outcome would you prefer?

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